One of the most daunting things about embarking on a content marketing campaign is knowing where to begin. Before you can even deal with that issue, though, you need to determine whether you are even equipped to execute a content marketing campaign. (If you can’t produce quality content, then don’t bother at all.)
Keys to Creating and Populating an Editorial Calendar
Step one is to take a long and hard look at your internal resources. You’ll need to get your team together and figure out the answers to the following questions:
1. Who are our target audiences and what kinds of information are they looking for?
2. Does my company/brand have the expertise to address these needs?
3. Does my company have the talent and resources to effectively communicate such expertise in a clear, helpful and entertaining way?
4.Does my company/brand have enough to say to provide a steady stream of quality content?
5. Is my company prepared to fully interact with my audience, listening, reacting, serving and collaborating?
Once you’ve gone through this process, and have answered all in questions in the affirmative, then you can begin the process of strategizing and laying out your editorial calendar:
1. Choose your format
There is no single cookie-cutter template for your editorial calendar. Some people are most comfortable with a traditional calendar. More tend to go with Excel or some other spreadsheet. Still others use both.
Creating a full 12-month calendar can be a bit daunting, but it is a worthwhile task. For one, it demonstrates your commitment to creating content in a steady and consistent way. Secondly, it helps you to plan ahead for key events (see below).
If you are creating multiple types of content, it can also be extremely helpful to create a calendar for each content type (i.e. a blog calendar, newsletter calendar, etc.).
Every company has its own way of organizing and tracking content. For a fairly basic editorial calendar, I suggest charting and tracking the following:
Headline or title
This can get far more complex in cases where there are multiple levels of editing and approvals, but those are simple to add to the matrix.
2. Identify Your Anchor Events
There will be a certain number of days each year that will be benchmarks for your target audience and for your company. Don’t let them sneak up on you.
What kinds of events are we talking about?
First, think about the events of interest to your target audiences. Obviously, holidays are huge for retailers. If your audiences are are interested in food/cooking, look to schedule around holidays. If your customers are typically into popular culture, you might tie content to awards.
You get the idea.
There will also be internal events you’ll need to plan for. Look on your brand’s calendar to see when new products are being launched, when you may be up for awards and when you might be covered by the press.
Once you’ve identified these events, it’s easy to schedule content leading up to the event, covering the event and in the aftermath of the the event.
3. Identify and Schedule Your Content Channels
There are so many content channels, you can’t begin to create content for all of them. Don’t be overwhelmed. Simply choose the outlets that best serve the needs of your audiences:
Internal Bylined Articles
The act of populating an editorial calendar will give you a very clear idea of how much work you’re taking on. Often, businesses will look at their proposed editorial calendars and then scale back.
In other cases, businesses start out with a very ambitious calendar only to find that they are not doing real justice to any channel. If it turns out to be overwhelming to handle all of your content outlets, then you can pick and choose which ones you’ll want to concentrate on.
4. Set and Enforce Deadlines
Everyone involved in the content creation process – from a copywriter to the CEO – has to buy in completely. Deadlines set in an editorial calendar must be considered to be set in stone. If everyone isn’t taking the process seriously, it just won’t work.
5. Build These Into Your Content Rotation
You don’t want to bore people on your channels by providing the same kinds of information again and again. Vary your content by focusing on a variety of basic themes. Every business will have themes unique to them and their industries, but the following are good to keep in mind:
Quick responses to major news events (newsjacking)
Responses to industry trends and studies
Behind the scenes at your brand (humanize your brand)
Featured clients (case studies)
6. Be flexible
Some of the best content you can create comes from a sudden inspiration or in reaction to something you’ve read, seen or experienced. You may also want to change your calendar in response to to what is working and what isn’t.
7. Don’t Forget Impact
Remember, the ultimate goal of content marketing is to create customer loyalty and ultimately, drive sales.
While not all content interactions are directly measurable, many are. Email blasts are measurable in terms of opens and responses to calls to actions. Blog posts can be measured through pageviews, shares, “likes” and Tweets. White papers can be measured through responses to calls to action contained in the white papers and email addresses acquired (when required for a download). Guest articles can be measured through traffic on the media site, click throughs back to the brand site and through visits or calls made directly to the brand (“how did you hear about us”).
Obviously, press releases can be measured through press coverage, but can also be measured through click throughs.
Armed with these numbers, you will be in a much better position to adjust the focus of your content marketing efforts. Go with what’s working, ditch what isn’t and continue to experiment and test.
Calendar Photo via Shutterstock